Mór Jókai.

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is outspread. Under the moonlight it is a looking-glass in
one piece without a flaw only the tracks are visible upon it,
by which the inhabitants of the contiguous villages communi-
cate with each other. They traverse it like measuring-lines
on some great glass table you see the reflection of the moun-
tains of Tihany, with the double tower of the church, as dis-
tinctly as if it were real, only the towers are upside down.

Timar stood long absorbed in this fairy picture. The fisher-
men woke him from his dream ; they arrived with nets, poles,
and ice-axes, and said the work must begin before sunrise.
When all had assembled, they formed a circle, and the old
chief intoned a pious hymn, which all repeated after him.
Timar walked away; he could not pray. How should he
address a psalm to Him who is omniscient, and who cannot
be deceived by songs and hymns ? The music could be heard
two miles away over the level surface, and the echoes of the
shore repeated the sound. Timar walked a long way over the
lake. At last it began to dawn, the moon paled, and the
eastern horizon was tinted with rosy red, which caused a
wonderful transformation in the colour of the giant ice-

THE ICE. 299

mirror, dividing it into two sharply contrasted halves. One
side assumed a coppery-violet hue, whilst the other looked
azure blue against the pink sky.

In proportion to the growing light, the splendour of the
sight increased ; the purple red, the gold of the sky, were
repeated in the pure reflection, and when the glowing ball,
radiant with fiery vapour, shot up from the violet mists of the
horizon and shone down on the glittering surface, it was a
spectacle such as neither sea nor land can show, as if two suns
rose at once in two real skies. The moment the sun had
passed through the earth-fogs, its glorious rays leapt forth.

The fishing-captain Galambos cried from the distance to
Timar, "Now yon will hear something. Don't be afraid!
Ho ! ho ! "

" Afraid ! " thought Timar, shrugging his shoulders incre-
dulously. What in the world could frighten him now ? He
would soon know.

When the sun first shines on the frozen lake, a wonderful
sound is heard from the ice, as if thousands of fairy harp-
strings were struck. One is reminded of the tones from
Menmon's statue, only that it does not last so long. The
mysterious cling-clang grows louder, as if the nixies down
below struck their harps with all their force : then follows a
droning and cracking, almost as loud as a shot, and on every
snap follows a glittering fissure in the ice, which till then was
clear as glass. In every direction the gigantic mirror is
flawed till it is like a huge mosaic, formed of millions of tiny
dice, pentagons, and many-sided prisms, and whose surface is
of glass. This is what causes the sound. He who hears it
for the first time finds his heart beating faster; the whole
surface hums, rings, and sings under his feet. Some cracks
are like thunder, and are heard miles away. The fishermen,
however, proceed quietly with the spreading of their nets on
the top of the groaning ice, and in the distance may be seen
hay waggons, drawn slowly by four oxen across the surface.
Man and beast are used to the ice-voices, which last till

This remarkable phenomenon made a curious impression on
Michael's mind. He was very sensitive to the great life of
nature. In his emotional temperament the thought was
implanted that everything living has consciousness wind,
storm, and lightning, the earth itself, the moon and stars.
But who could understand what the ice under his feet was
saying ?


Then suddenly was heard a fearful detonation as if a hun-
dred cannon had been fired at once, or a subterranean mine
had been exploded the whole surface trembled and shook.
The effect of this thunderous convulsion was fearful the ice
opened in a cleft three thousand yards long, and between the
edges of the floes yawned a six-foot chasm. "A Riands! a
Riands/" (the ice-cleft), cried the fishermen, and ran to the
place, abandoning their nets.

Timar stood only two paces from it. He had seen it happen.
His knees trembled with the frightful shock, which had driven
the two ice masses apart ; he was stunned with the effect of
this natural phenomenon. The arrival of the fishermen roused
him ; they told him that amongst the natives this fissure was
called Miands, a word unknown elsewhere. It was a great
danger for travellers across the lake, for it was not visible far
off, and it never froze over, because the water was always
moving in it. It was therefore the first care of these good
people, wherever a footpath led to the crack, to plant at both
edges a pole in the ice with a bundle of straw at the top,
so that those who approach might have warning. " But
what is even more dangerous," said the fisherman, "is when,
under great pressure of wind, the separated floes again unite.
Then there is such a grinding and crushing ! Yery often
the power of the wind is sufficient to raise the edges of the
two floes, so that there is an empty space between the water
and the uplifted ice. God pity those who go over there with-
out knowing it, for the ice which does not touch the water is
certain to give way under them ! "

It was nearly noon before they could get to work. It is
capital sport, this fishing under the ice. In the bay, where
the fishermen's experience tells them the shoals of fish will
lie, two large holes are made in the ice some fifty fathoms
apart, and then a square of smaller holes is formed, so that
the two large openings form the opposite angles. The pieces
of ice hewn from the holes are piled round their edges, so
that passengers may be warned of the danger of falling in.
When the sun shines on these white heaps, they look like
colossal diamonds. The fishermen sink, the huge net sideways
into the large hole, spread out its two ends, and fasten them
on poles, each three and a half fathoms in length. One man
pushes the pole with the net under the ice, whilst another
waits at the next small hole, and when the pole appears there
he pushes it on to the third hole, and so on, whilst the other
side of the square is being treated in the same way with the

THE ICE. 301

second pole and the other end of the net. Both meet at
the opposite large hole. The net, which is sunk to the
bottom with lead weights, whilst its top edge is held up by
ropes over the ice, forms an absolute prison for all the fish
within the square, which usually swarm at this season. The
fogasch and sheath-fish leave their miry bed and come up
to breathe at the ice-holes ; they have their family festivals
in the winter, when cold-blooded animals make love. The
strong ice-roof protects them from the foreign element, but
not from its inhabitants men.

The ice now only assists in their destruction. When they
discover that the net is pressing on them, it is already too late
to find an outlet. They cannot leap out, because the ice shuts
them in, and even the fogasch cannot as usual burrow in the
mud, to get under the net, for the weight of his splashing
companions leaves him no space to work. The fishermen lay
hold on the rope and draw steadily. The united exertion
of twenty men shows how great is the strain on them ; it
must be several hundred-weight. The surface of the large
hole begins to be alive with the crowd of fishes pressing to
the only outlet, there to meet their death. Various forms
of fish-mouths peep out of the water transparent jelly-fish,
red tails, blue, green, and silver scales press up, and between
them comes up sometimes a great silurian, the shark of the
Balaton, a Wels of a hundred pounds' weight, with wide jaws
and horse-shoe moustache ; but it disappears into the depths
again, as if to find safety there.

Three fishermen dip the living crowd out from the top with
large landing-nets, and throw the fish on to the ice without
more ado, where old and young leap about together : thence
they cannot escape, for the holes are all surrounded with
heaps of ice. It is a regular witches' dance wide-mouthed
carp leaping high in air, the pike in its despair wriggling
like a snake amongst the gasping heaps of perch and bass.
One conger after another is hauled out with a hook and
thrown on the frozen surface, where, laying down his ugly
head, he flaps his fellow-prisoners into pieces with his heavy
tail. The space round the hole is all covered with fishes.
The carp jump like water-rats, but no one notices they
cannot get away. The lazier fishes lie in heaps on both sides.

" I said so," murmured old Galambos ; " I knew we should
have a good catch. Wherever our gracious master shows
himself, luck comes with him. If only we could catch the


" If I am not mistaken, we've got him in there," said the
man who was next him at the rope. "There's some great
beast shooting about in the net ; I feel it in both my arms."

" Ha ! there he is ! " cried another, whose landing-net was
full of fish, as an enormous head like that of a white crocodile
appeared above water. The whole head was white; in the
open mouth were two rows of sharp teeth like those of an
alligator, but with four fangs meeting like a tiger's a for-
midable head indeed. They may well call him the king of
the lake, for there is no other creature in it, even of his own
race, able to vie with him.

" There he is ! " screamed three others at once, but the next
instant the brute had sunk ; and now began the struggle.

As if the imprisoned brute had suddenly given the word to
his body-guard for a last and decisive combat, a dangerous
tumult began inside the net. The skirmishing corps of pike
and carp ran their heads against the tightly drawn meshes ;
the men were obliged to beat down the marine giants with
loaded staves. The fishes became furious; the cold-blooded
creation showed itself capable of heroic devotion, and rose
against the invaders in pitched battle. The struggle ended in
the defeat of the fishes. The dog-fish were knocked on the
head, the net shook out many beautiful white fogasch and
schille ; but the fogasch-king would not show himself.

" He has got away again," grumbled the old chief.

" No, no ; he is in the net still ! " said the hauling-men,
clenching their teeth. " I feel by my arms how he is pushing
and fighting ; if only he does not break the net."

The catch was enormous already; there was no room to
stand without treading on fishes.

" There goes the net ! I heard it crack ! " cried the first
man. Half the net was still in the water.

" Haul ! " growled the old fisherman, and all the men put
out their whole strength. With the net came the rest of the
fishes, and the fogasch-king was amongst them a splendid
specimen indeed, more than forty pounds weight, such as is
only seen once in twenty years. He had really torn the net
with his great head; but he had caught his prickly fins in
the meshes, and could not get free. When they got him out
he gave one of the men a blow with his tail, which knocked
him backwards on the ice. But that was his last effort ; the
next moment he was dead. No one has ever held a living
fogasch in his hand. It is thought that his lungs burst as he
is taken out of water, and he dies instantly.

THE ICE. 303

The delight of the fishermen at the capture of this one was
greater than over the whole rich haul. They had been after
him for years ; and every one knew the cannibal, for he had
the bad habit of eating his own kind. That was why he was
king. When he was opened they found a large fogasch in his
inside, quite recently swallowed ; his flesh was overlaid with a
thick layer of yellow fat, and white as linen.

" Now, honoured sir, we will send him to the gracious lady,"
said the old fisherman. " We will pack him in ice, and your
honour will write a letter and say he is the king of the fogasch.
Whoever eats him will eat a king's flesh."

Michael approved the suggestion, and assured the men they
should get a reward. When they had finished with the
fogasch, the short winter's day had come to a close ; but only
in the sky, not on the ice there it was lively enough. From
every village came the people with baskets and hampers and
wooden kegs ; in the kegs was wine, in the hampers pork, but
the baskets were meant for the fish. When it came to the
division of the spoil, a complete fair formed round the fisher-
men. After sunset, torches were made of dry osier-twigs,
fires were lit on the ice, and then began the bargaining.
Carp and pike, conger and bass, are good enough for poor
people. Only the fogasch and schille are sent to Vienna and
Pesth, where they fetch high prices ; all the rest go for a
song and even so there is room for a large profit, for in one
haul they had caught three hundredweight of fish. This
Timar is indeed a favourite of fortune ! The unsold fish are
packed in baskets and put in the ice-house, whence they will
be sent to the Vessprimer market.

Timar wanted to give a feast to all the assembled crowd.
He had a ten-gallon cask brought on to the ice and the top
knocked out ; then he begged the captain to prepare a fish-
soup, such as he only could concoct. Certain selected fishes,
neither rich nor bony, were cut in pieces into a great kettle ;
then some of the blood, and handfuls of maize and vegetables,
were added. The whole art lies in the proper proportions of
the mixture, which the uninitiated never understand. Of this
delicious mess Herr Timar himself consumed an incredible
quantity. Where good wine flows and fish-soup is brewed,
be sure there will be gipsies to be found. Almost before
they thought of it, a brown band of musicians appeared,
who, as soon as the cymbal-player was seated on an upturned
basket, began to play popular airs.

Where gipsies and rosy wenches and fiery youths get


together, dancing will soon begin. In a twinkling a rustic ball
was improvised on the ice, and rose to a frolicsome height.
Round the bonfires circled the active couples, shouting, as they
leapt, like King David, and before he knew where he was,
Tirnar too, whom a handsome girl had caught by the arm,
was drawn into the whirl

Timar danced.

In the clear winter darkness the cheery fires illuminated
the ice for many a mile. The fun lasted till midnight.
Meanwhile the fishermen had finished carrying the fish into
the ice-house. The joyous crowd dispersed on their home-
ward way, not without cheers for the feast-giver, the generous
Baron von Levetinczy.

Timar stayed till Galambos had packed the fogasch-king
in a box, between ice and hay, and nailed the lid down.
It was put into the chaise which had brought Timar, and
the driver was told to get ready to drive for his life to
Komorn : there is no time to lose in despatching fish. He
wrote himself to Time'a. The letter was written in an affec-
tionate and cheerful mood. He called her his dear wife,
and described the picturesque scene on the frozen lake, and
the terrible cleft in the ice. (That he had been so near the
Riands he did not mention.) Then he gave a description
of the fishing, with all its amusing details, and finished with
an account of the night festival. He told her how much
he had been entertained, and how he had quite lost his head,
and even ventured on a dance with a pretty peasant girl on
the ice.

Some men write these amusing letters when they are con-
templating suicide. When the letter was ready he took it to
the driver. The old fisherman was there too. "Go home
now, Galambos," Michael advised. "You must be tired."

" I must go and make up the fire on the ice," said the old
man, lighting his pipe, " for the smell of fish brings the foxes
and even bears from all the forests round, to fish on their own
account : they watch for the fishes, which put their heads out
of the holes, and drag them out, and that frightens away the

" No, no ! " said Michael, " don't keep up the fire. I will
keep guard I often watch all night. I will go out now and
then and fire my gun; that will send all the four-footed
fishermen to the right-about." This satisfied Galambos, who
invoked God's blessing on his master and trotted away.

The deaf vine-dresser, the only other inhabitant of Timar's


bouse, had long been asleep. To add to bis deafness, he had
drunk so much good wine that one might be certain his night's
rest would be unbroken. Timar too went to his room and
stirred up his fire.

He was not sleepy ; his excited brain required no rest. But
there is another form of repose ; or is it not rest to sit near
an open window and look out on dumb nature ? The moon
had not yet risen ; only the stars of heaven shone down on
the smooth ice. Their reflection was like rubies spread on a
bright steel plate, or the lights which flicker over graves on

He gazed before him, and did not even think. He sat
without any sensation, either of cold or of his own pulses,
neither of the outer nor inner world he only wondered. This
was rest.



THE stars glittered in heaven and sparkled from their frozen
mirror : no breath disturbed the silence of the night. Then
Michael heard behind him a voice which greeted him with
" Good evening, sir."

At the door of the bedroom stood, between the two lights
of the lamp and the fire, a figure, at sight of which Timar's
blood ran cold. In the bitter midnight, through the dense
fog, he had fled from this spectre across the frozen Danube.

The man's dress was that of a naval officer, whose uniform
had, however, visibly suffered from storms and weather. The
green cloth had altogether faded on the shoulders, and some
buttons were gone. The shoes, too, were in sad condition.
The soles had worn away at the tip so that the naked toes
were visible ; over one shoe a piece of carpet was tied. The
wearer was suited to his ragged dress. A sunburnt face with
a neglected beard \ in place of the shaven moustache, a few
bristly hairs ; across the forehead a black handkerchief cover-
ing one eye. This was the figure which had wished Timar a
good evening.

" Krisstyan ! " said Timar, very low.

"Yes, to be sure; your dear Theodor your dear adopted
son, Theodor Krisstyan ! How good of you to recognise me ! "



" What do you want ? "

" First, I want to have that gun in my own hands, lest it
should remind you of the words with which we parted last
time 'If I ever appear before you again, shoot me down.'
Since then I have changed my mind." So saying he seized
Timar's gun, which leant against the wall, threw himself into
a chair by the fire, and laid the gun across his knee. " There,
now we can talk quietly. I have come a long way, and I am
dreadfully tired. My equipage left me in the lurch, and I
had to travel part of the way on foot."

" What do you want here ?" said Timar.

" First, a respectable suit, for what I am wearing bears
signs of the severity of the weather." Timar went to the
closet, took out his pelisse trimmed with astrachan, and the
rest of the suit, laid them on the ground between himself and
Krisstyan, and pointed to them in silence. The vagrant held
the gun in one hand, keeping his finger on the trigger, lifted
the clothes one by one with the other, and looked them over
with the air of a connoisseur.

" Very good, but there is something wanting to this coat.
What do you think it is ? Why, of course, the purse."

Timar took his pocket-book from a drawer, and threw it
over. The vagabond caught it with one hand, opened it with
the help of his teeth, and counted the notes inside.

" We are getting on," he said, placing the pocket-book in
the pocket of the pelisse. " Might I ask for some linen ? I
have worn mine for a week, and I fear it is hardly fit for
company." Timar handed him a shirt out of the wardrobe.
" Now, I have got far enough to proceed to the toilet. But
first I have a few explanations to make in order to explain
one or two things to his honour the Privy Councillor. But
why the devil should we bother with titles ! We are old
friends, and can talk openly."

Timar sat down speechless by the table.

"So then, my dear fellow," said the fugitive, "you will
remember that you sent me some years ago to Brazil. How
affected I was ! I adopted you as a father, and swore to be
an honest man. But you did not send me over there to make
an honest man of me, but in order that I might not stand in
your way in this hemisphere. You calculated that a worth-
less youth, without a good fibre in him, is sure to come to
grief in that part of the world. He either turns thief, or gets
drowned, or somebody shoots him anyway, he would be got
rid of. But you intrusted me with a large sum of money.


What was that to you ? Only a stalking-horse. You reckoned
on my robbing you, so that you might arrest and imprison
me; and so it turned out. Once or twice I nearly did you
the favour of dying of some native plague, but unluckily for
you I pulled through. And then I devoted my whole energy
to business ; I robbed you of ten million reis. Ha ! ha !
Spanish thieves reckon in half-kreuzers, so that the sum
may sound larger, it is not more than a hundred thousand
gulden. If only you knew what lovely necks the women
there have, you would not think it too much ; and they will
only wear real pearls. But your stupid agent, the Spaniard,
looked at it from a different point of view ; he had me arrested
and tried, and the rascal of a judge sentenced me just for a
foolish boyish trick only think, to fifteen years at the galleys !
Now, just say, was it not barbarous 1 "

Timar shuddered.

"They took off my fine clothes, and in order that they
might not lose me, they branded me on the arm with a hot
iron." The felon threw off his uniform-coat as he spoke,
drew his dirty shirt from his left shoulder, and showed Timar,
with a bitter laugh, the mark still fiery red on his arm.
" Look you, it was on your account that they branded me like
a foal or a calf, lest I should go astray. Don't be afraid, I
would not run away from you, even without that."

With morbid curiosity Timar gazed at the burn on the
miserable wretch, and could not turn his eyes away.

"After that, they dragged me to the galleys, and riveted
one of my feet to the bench with a ten-pound chain." With
that he threw his torn shoe from his foot, and showed Timar
a deep wound on his raw ankle. " That also I carry as a
remembrance of you," sneered the escaped criminal.

Timar's eyes rested as if fascinated on the disfigured foot.

" But just think, comrade, how kind fate can be ! The
ways of Providence are wonderful by which an unhappy
sufferer is led to the arms of his friends. On the same bench
where they had been good enough to fasten me, sat a respect-
able old man with a bushy beard. He was to be my bed-fellow
for fifteen years. It is natural to take a good look at a man
who is wedded to you for so long a time. I stared at him
a while, and then said in Spanish, ' It seems to me, senor, as
if I had met you before.' 'Your eyes do not deceive you
may you be struck blind ! ' replied the amiable individual.
Then I addressed him in Turkish, ' Effendi, have you not
been in Turkey V 'I have been there ; what's that to you 3 '


Then I said in Hungarian, ' Were you not originally called
Krisstyan 1 ' The old fellow was much surprised, and said,
* Yes.' ' Then, I am your son Theodor, your dear Theodor,
your only offspring ! ' Ha ! ha ! Thanks to you, friend, I
found my father, my long-lost father, over there in the New
World on the galley-slave's bench. Providence in its won-
derful way had united the long-divided father and son ! But
may I beg you to give me a flask of wine, and something to
eat, for I am thirsty and hungry, and have many interesting
things to tell you, which will amuse you intensely."

Timar did as he asked, and gave him bread and wine. The
visitor sat at the table, took the gun between his knees, and
began to eat. He devoured like a starved dog, and drank
eagerly : at every draught he smacked his lips, like an epicure
who has dined well. And then he went on. with his mouth
full :

"After we bad got over the first joy of the unexpected
meeting, my dear papa said, while he thumped me on the
head, 'Now tell me, you gallows-bird, how you got here?'
Naturally my filial respect had prevented me from address-
ing the like question to my parent. I told him that I had
defrauded a Hungarian gentleman named Timar of ten million
reis. 'And where did he steal all that?' was my old man's
remark I explained that he never stole, that he was a rich
landowner, merchant, and trader. But that did not alter my

Online LibraryMór JókaiTimar's two worlds → online text (page 29 of 34)